Everyone knows they need an estate plan, but most people put it off. It might be because they’re busy, or because planning seems overwhelming or hard to talk about. Some people feel like they have to have all the answers before they even get started. Whatever the reason, taking the first step can be the hardest.
It doesn’t have to be. At Legacy Legal, we never lose sight of the fact that estate planning is about people. Our priority is understanding what’s important to you, from providing for your family to helping them stay connected long after you’re gone.
We’ll help you clarify your goals and understand your options, and create an estate plan that will work the way you want when you need it to. Most of all, we want to help you feel at peace not only with your plan, but with the process.
People frequently ask if we farm. No, we technically don’t, but Brooke has chickens and lives in the country, so she’s an almost-farmer. All kidding aside, we organically grew our farm practice because we enjoy working with clients who work so hard to preserve their family farm legacies. In fact, they are the impetus for naming the firm Legacy in the first place. With headquarters squarely in east-central Illinois, we are surrounded by miles and miles of some of the richest farmland America has to offer and one-by-one our expertise at farm planning spread. Brooke has formerly served on the board of directors for Illinois Farm Business Farm Management and is a frequent lecturer for Farm Credit in Illinois and in Missouri. Farm clients resonate with us because we truly strive to understand how their operations work, explain things in layman’s terms, and share core values.
An executor is a court-appointed fiduciary charged with the administration of a deceased person’s probate estate. When clients create wills, they nominate their choices of executors. However, a person is not, in fact, an executor until a judge enters an order in a probate proceeding appointing that person as executor. At that point, the executor is empowered with the rights and powers of executor as well as the fiduciary obligations of executor. No person nominated in a will as an executor has to accept the role and there are very good reasons a person might not choose to do so: illness, time commitments, lack of knowledge or family discord are some common reasons. Once an executor has been appointed, that person may withdraw as executor and pass-the-torch, so to speak, to the next person nominated, with court approval. If no executor nominated in the will is willing to act, state statute provides a list of priority as to persons who have a right to nominate an executor for the estate.
One of the biggest obstacles to estate planning for couples with young children can be agreeing on who to nominate as guardian of minor children. A guardian is, for all intents and purposes, the person (or people) who will become the pseudo-parents of a child. A will is the proper and legally-binding document to nominate such a guardian. Choosing guardians can feel difficult because it is hard to imagine anyone raising our children, or loving them, quite like we do. Nobody seems good enough. However, neglecting to specify preferences could result in chaos and uncertainty in an emergency and none of us want that for our children. If a guardian is not specified, any number of people who have an interest in your children may choose to petition the court to be appointed guardians and provide the court with their arguments as to why they are the best fit. One of the most responsible things we can do for the people we love is to minimize the chaos and nominating a guardian who, let’s face it, will never be quite as good as you, is just one way to do that for your family.
Probate is a court process of overseeing that the instructions in your will are followed, those to whom you owed money are paid, and empowering someone, an executor, to carry out those duties. Probate sometimes gets a bad rap on the street. It’s not uncommon for clients to ask us how to avoid probate, or bypass probate, altogether. However, having your estate pass through probate doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. Oftentimes, probate proceedings can be handled without the need to ever appear in court and probate sometimes serves valuable functions such as cutting off creditors or providing court oversight of difficult beneficiaries. Probate in Illinois typically takes at least a year to complete, although there are surges in activity and periods of lull. Reasons clients dislike probate usually come down to timelines, additional costs and the fact that all records filed in probate become public records discoverable by anyone who is interested. If clients are particularly concerned with probate, we are happy to discuss ways to avoid it, but bear in mind that probate in itself is not a bad word.